This is war. Israel has clearly decided that it is not just under attack internationally following the May 31 flotilla incident. The proof? The national media are expressing unqualified support for the naval commandos, students are rallying to show solidarity, and the music has changed. Never underestimate the message of the music on Israeli airwaves: Follow the tunes and you can actually keep ahead of the news. Locals know what songs indicate a disaster such as a terror attack or the loss of soldiers even before a story breaks officially.
By the Friday after the flotilla affair, it was obvious that things were bad.
A headline on an early morning radio broadcast announced that “France will not take any diplomatic measures” against Israel. What kind of headline is that, I briefly wondered, before realizing that the well-known luminary of human rights, Nicaragua, had broken ties and Vietnam had canceled a planned visit by President Shimon Peres. That a major European power was not taking steps was apparently news.
It should be noted, perhaps, that Peres nonetheless set off for South Korea on what was quickly redefined by Seoul as a “working visit” rather than an official trip. It could be that South Korea appreciates more than most what it’s like to be the neighbor of an extremist (nuclear) regime, not to mention the fact that the UN did not demand an inquiry when North Korea torpedoed a ship of its southern neighbor resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors.
By mid-morning Friday, June 4, it was evident that Israel had had enough. The international condemnation of the raid on the flotilla in which the commandos killed nine people – after being attacked – had gone from the hypocritical to the ridiculous. After all, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed out, “This was not the Love Boat” and, as my dad notes, missile-launching Gaza is “under a blockade, not a block-aid.” The humanitarian groups involved could have transferred the aid by land from either Israel or Egypt.
Israel’s tune changed from the defiant to the defensive to the derisive. Israel Radio’s main weekly culture program dug up the 1970s song: “Ha’olam kulo negdeinu” – “The whole world is against us.” Lyricist Yoram Taharlev, who penned more than 130 hits for IDF entertainment troupes in their heyday, wrote, tongue only slightly in cheek:
“The whole world is against us
It’s a very old refrain,
That our fathers taught us,
Both to sing and to dance...
The whole world is against us,
Never mind, we’ll cope
They don’t care for us...
And we don’t care for them...”
The song, and the catchphrase, kept popping up last week, a musical sign of the times.
Another musical footnote to the Mavi Marmara affair came from, of all places, the Knesset. Our parliamentarians are often vocal, but harmony is not considered their strong point. However, at least 10 MKs from several parties from centrist Kadima rightward took time out to begin rehearsing “Shir Eres” (Lullaby), described by Kadima’s Yoel Hasson as “a clear expression of support for IDF soldiers.”
Its opening verse, written by Moshe Klughaft, parliamentary aide of Kadima’s Ronit Tirosh, goes:
“Sleep, child, sleep
Someone is awake for you
Take your food box and go to your kindergarten
He will eat too – battlefield rations.”
I would prefer to think that MKs are dedicating their time to deciding how best to handle the diplomatic, military and media ramifications of the flotilla affair rather than bursting into song. But there is something incredibly Israeli about the response. While our enemies are holding mass rallies, wrapped in fake shrouds stained with blood, the country is responding in verse.
The biggest hit of the Gaza incident is, of course – at least in the musical sense – the spoof “We Con the World,” set to the tune of “We Are the World.” The video produced by the satirical news Web site Latma TV shows Latma editor-in-chief and Post contributing editor Caroline Glick as she has never been seen before, wearing a keffiyeh and dancing with a knife.
This clip could well prove to be an effective weapon against future flotillas. At least two other colleagues agreed that if we printed out every e-mail sent to us with the link (www.latma.co.il) and bombarded the next would-be blockade-busting boats, we could possibly sink the vessels (but a lot of trees would die).
Latma and like-minded folk need not look too far for satirical inspiration, by the way. On June 8, Turkey reportedly lodged an official complaint that the demonstrations outside its embassy in Tel Aviv were hindering its work. How do you say chutzpa in Turkish? Israel, incidentally, within 48 hours of the Mavi Marmara incident brought home the families of its diplomats in Turkey because of the security threats. Turkey seems to be trying, in the words of Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest entrant of 2007, to “Push the button.” Teapacks sang, if you want a reminder, “The world is full of terror, If someone makes an error, He’s gonna blow us up to biddy biddy kingdom come.”
The flotilla fallout is indeed landing in the most unexpected places. The performance by Israel’s transsexual Eurovision winner Dana International, who was meant to launch the Madrid Gay Pride Parade next month, was canceled ostensibly out of security concerns.
The other participants might want to consider the threats that members of the gay community face in other countries, like Turkey’s ever-closer allies Iran and Syria.
Discussion on cultural ties with Israel even reached the editorial pages of France’s Le Monde, which came out against the boycott as “counterproductive” to the peace camp.
Meanwhile, the Pixies were the latest foreign performers to do a disappearing act and cancel a planned performance in Israel last week. This caused promoter Shuki Weiss, the man who has brought a series of top names to the country, to issue a statement describing the situation as “cultural terrorism” with intense pressure being put on foreign artists not to appear here. Those who have not (yet) given in – including Elton John, Rod Stewart and Neil Sedaka – are assured an extra-enthusiastic audience.
And Israelis noted that among the many demonstrations of support around
the world – for not everyone is against us, after all – former
Hollywood superstar and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told
a rally in Los Angeles that Israel has the right to defend itself and
“Am Yisrael hai.”
Yoram Taharlev’s song ends: We’ll teach the words to our sons, and
they’ll teach it to their grandchildren “and the great-grandchildren of
the great-grandchildren will sing, here in the Land of Israel, and all
those who are against us can go to hell!”
Searching the Web for lyrics of “Ha’olam kulo
,” Google kept suggesting instead the words of Rabbi
Nahman of Breslav, also immortalized in song: “Kol ha’olam kulo
Gesher tzar me’od....
lo lefahed klal.”
“The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
And the main thing to recall –
is not to be afraid,
not to be afraid at all.”
And on that happy note...The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem Post. firstname.lastname@example.org